NFL Week Two Summaries
JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
THE NFL WEEK IN REVIEW BASED ON OUR KEY INDICATOR STATS
Time once again to crunch the key "big three" numbers from this past weekend in NFL football action. We're doing this on Wednesdays this year so we can include everything from the Monday Night game. That will allow you to make your handicapping decisions for the new week with everything on the plate.
For you newcomers, we focus on:
RUSHING YARDAGE: because of it's strong correlation to winning. Running the ball helps you build leads, and protect them.
DRIVE POINTS: which are points scored and allowed on drives of 60 yards or more. We believe this is the single strongest indicator stat in all of sports for taking out the pollution and seeing real quality.
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: arguably the coin of the realm in the modern game, as good offenses march down the field by moving the chains, and good defenses prevent their opponents from doing so.
Games are presented in rotation order so you can make notes in your schedule...
KANSAS CITY 16, CLEVELAND 14
Rushing Yardage: Kansas City 140, Cleveland 73
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Kansas City 6, Cleveland 14
Third Down Conversions: Kansas City 33%, Cleveland 30%
NOTEBOOK: A mixed bag here, as Kansas City was much better on the ground, but wasn't very good at driving the field for points. It was a defensive touchdown that ultimately proved to be the difference-maker. Neither team impressed in our view, though Kansas City's ground game will give them a chance to be more competitive than many of the other teams with shaky quarterbacks.
GREEN BAY 34, BUFFALO 7
Rushing Yardage: Buffalo 124, Green Bay 91
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Buffalo 7, Green Bay 14
Third Down Conversions: Buffalo 33%, Green Bay 58%
NOTEBOOK: Green Bay's loss of Ryan Grant could hurt them vs. better opposition. Against somebody like Buffalo, they can run away and hide on the arm of Aaron Rodgers. Huge performance on third downs here, and a 2-1 edge in long distance scoring. Buffalo is in huge trouble offensively this year, even with the quarterback change this coming week to Ryan Fitzgerald.
CINCINNATI 15, BALTIMORE 10
Rushing Yardage: Baltimore 109, Cincinnati 94
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Baltimore 7, Cincinnati 0
Third Down Conversions: Baltimore 26%, Cincinnati 16%
NOTEBOOK: Truly a defensive struggle. Baltimore scored on the only long drive of the day. But, they lost the turnover battle 4-0. That allowed Cincinnati to pick up enough cheap field goals to steal a victory. Both offenses have a lot of work to do on third downs. Each has opened vs. a tough schedule. It will be interesting to see how they perform when stepping down in class. Baltimore was GREAT last year vs. weaklings you'll recall.
PITTSBURGH 19, TENNESSEE 11
Rushing Yardage: Pittsburgh 106, Tennessee 46
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Pittsburgh 3, Tennessee 8
Third Down Conversions: Pittsburgh 13%, Tennessee 28%
NOTEBOOK: We're seeing some truly horrible third down performances so far. That tells you that defenses are ahead of offenses to start the season...and the shakiest quarterbacks are in HUGE trouble when it comes to moving the chains. They need to find regular season form quick. Pittsburgh's superior ground play and a turnover edge yielded a victory in a game where they didn't score an offensive touchdown.
PHILADELPHIA 35, DETROIT 32
Rushing Yardage: Philadelphia 162, Detroit 115
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Philadelphia 28, Detroit 21
Third Down Conversions: Philadelphia 42%, Detroit 40%
NOTEBOOK: Here's some offense to look at (though third downs still aren't very good!). You can tell that the Detroit defense is going to be horrible this year. They've allowed a ton of yardage at a time in the season where most defenses are in command. What's going to happen later when the offenses catch up? Philadelphia has issues of its own on that side of the ball. Playing shootouts early in the season just wears out your own defense down the road. It's great for the highlight reels, but not for long term success over the course of a 16-game season.
CHICAGO 27, DALLAS 20
Rushing Yardage: Chicago 38, Dallas 36
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Chicago 14, Dallas 7
Third Down Conversions: Chicago 9%, Dallas 46%
NOTEBOOK: Those poor rushing totals are a red flag for problems to come. You can't protect leads without a ground game. Chicago got lucky here in that they were facing a team that self-destructed with turnovers. Dallas keeps having to re-learn that they can't do it all on the arm of Tony Romo. Bears fans should be happy about the win. But, 38 rushing yards and 1 of 11 on third downs tells you that the Mike Martz era is far from a sure thing to succeed.
TAMPA BAY 20, CAROLINA 7
Rushing Yardage: Tampa Bay 95, Carolina 119
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Tampa Bay 7, Carolina 7
Third Down Conversions: Tampa Bay 42%, Carolina 31%
NOTEBOOK: Carolina has changed starting quarterbacks after two very sluggish starts to open the season. Tampa Bay is showing promise on third downs, as 42% is actually a high mark for this particular week. Maybe Carolina is horrible this year, and that's a false indicator. For now, it's a sign that Tampa Bay is moving in the right direction. There weren't many signs like that last year. To this point, we've been seeing mostly low numbers in the DRIVE POINT category. That's about to change, thank goodness!
ATLANTA 41, ARIZONA 7
Rushing Yardage: Arizona 118, Atlanta 221
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Arizona 7, Atlanta 31
Third Down Conversions: Arizona 0%, Atlanta 64%
NOTEBOOK: Whoa, 31 points on long drives! Most of the games so far didn't see that for the two teams combined. Atlanta obviously had a huge game here. They were fired up after the loss to Pittsburgh, and they caught Arizona in a letdown spot the week after a divisional win. And, Arizona could be really bad this year since they struggled to get past St. Louis. An eye-opening game regarding what may be in store this season. Arizona was 0 for 8 on third downs, even with a full second half of garbage time. This franchise just wasn't prepared for Kurt Warner's retirement. He was carrying a bigger load than everyone realized.
MIAMI 14, MINNESOTA 10
Rushing Yardage: Miami 120, Minnesota 156
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Miami 7, Minnesota 3
Third Down Conversions: Miami 45%, Minnesota 35%
NOTEBOOK: Almost a replay of the first week for both teams. Miami was won games by scores of 15-10 and 14-10. Minnesota has lost games by scores of 14-9 and 14-10. Brett Favre has been the key ingredient in both games for the Vikings. He's NOT doing the stuff he's supposed to be doing, so great defense and a strong running game are getting flushed down the toilet. He had three interceptions and a fumble (that was recovered for a Miami touchdown). One could make the case they'd be undefeated with Tavaris Jackson right now. Miami is doing a good job on third downs, but they can't be happy with Chad Henne's relative invisibility.
OAKLAND 16, ST. LOUIS 14
Rushing Yardage: St. Louis 75, Oakland 173
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: St. Louis 7, Oakland 10
Third Down Conversions: St. Louis 20%, Oakland 41%
NOTEBOOK: Oakland played some good home games last year. They were much more impressive on the scoreboard than the final score makes it seem. Total yardage was 404-210. These stats are more reflective of a 24-14 type win (or better). That means the Rams are even worse than you've been thinking! Note that Bruce Gradkowski replaced Jason Campbell and engineered the victory in the second half.
DENVER 31, SEATTLE 14
Rushing Yardage: Seattle 109, Denver 65
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Seattle 7, Denver 24
Third Down Conversions: Seattle 63%, Denver 70%
NOTEBOOK: Big numbers in Drive Points and third downs for Denver. But, they can't be happy about the lack of a running game...and they were horrible defensively on third downs. Turnovers helped drive this blowout (a 4-0 win in that category for the Broncos). Don't assume they're going to get turnover breaks like that every week. And, therefore, don't read too much into this final victory margin. Maybe Denver's going to be the Philadelphia of the AFC stylistically this year. The stats are hinting at that out of the gate.
HOUSTON 30, WASHINGTON 27 (in OT)
Rushing Yardage: Houston 58, Washington 18
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Houston 21, Washington 21
Third Down Conversions: Houston 42%, Washington 20%
NOTEBOOK: This was a great game to watch. But, one of the reasons for that was that neither team could do anything on the ground. That meant BOTH teams were constantly passing. In fact, both teams passed for more than 400 yards! It puts on a heckuva show...and thrills all the Fantasy Football players. In terms of championship football though, it's not going to get the job done. Houston showed a strong rushing game in the opener, and was probably dealing with running back fatigue here. Washington can't hope that Donovan McNabb is going to do everything. Boy, the NFC East sure got vulnerable in a hurry, didn't it?
SAN DIEGO 38, JACKSONVILLE 13
Rushing Yardage: Jacksonville 71, San Diego 151
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Jacksonville 0, San Diego 21
Third Down Conversions: Jacksonville 50%, San Diego 50%
NOTEBOOK: Your classic San Diego home blowout, with a ground game backing up Philip Rivers and a lot of points on the board. Time will tell if that's an indictment of the Jacksonville defense or not. San Diego wasn't supposed to be able to do this on the ground. Maybe they can only do it against jet-lagged non-playoff opponents in letdown spots!
NY JETS 28, NEW ENGLAND 14
Rushing Yardage: New England 52, NY Jets 136
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: New England 14, NY Jets 25
Third Down Conversions: New England 45%, NY Jets 46%
NOTEBOOK: Wow, the Jets scored 25 points on long drives! You know Mark Sanchez is still learning the ropes, so that suggests the New England defense is very soft. They struggled in the second half vs. Cincinnati the prior week. So, for now, we can't take New England seriously as a championship threat. The running game still doesn't scare anybody, and the defense just isn't at a level that's going to string together victories in big games. If the Jets can sustain something near this level of performance most weeks, they've got the AFC East in the bag. Let's see how Sanchez continues to develop.
INDIANAPOLIS 38, NY GIANTS 14
Rushing Yardage: NY Giants 120, Indianapolis 160
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: NY Giants 7, Indianapolis 14
Third Down Conversions: NY Giants 27%, Indianapolis 36%
NOTEBOOK: Watching the game, it felt more like the final score than the raw stats. Why is that? The Giants kept turning the ball over! The right team won and covered...but Indianapolis isn't as good as the score makes it look...and the Giants aren't as bad.
NEW ORLEANS 25, SAN FRANCISCO 22
Rushing Yardage: New Orleans 50, San Francisco 142
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: New Orleans 7, San Francisco 22
Third Down Conversions: New Orleans 42%, San Francisco 56%
NOTEBOOK: Did you realize San Francisco had the blowout of the week Monday Night? They were more dominant than just about anybody in terms of across the board edges. They were certainly more dominant in our key stats than Indianapolis was just above, and the Colts won 38-14. They were more dominant than the Jets in their 28-14 win over New England. What happened? You watched the game, you know! San Francisco lost turnovers 4-0, and just kept handing away points. The key indicator stats are making it very clear right now that New Orleans is nowhere near their peak form of last year (the offense was sluggish vs. Minnesota too). And, this great bounce back for the Niners from the Seattle debacle suggest a team that's on the verge of finding itself if they can just embrace the fundamentals of ball protection with a little more passion.
We think the numbers you've just read through are SCREAMING about potential big plays this coming Sunday and Monday. We're not going to spell it out for you though. You have to do the work...make the connections...and find line value.
And, you also have to remember that stat handicapping by itself is just part of the exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach at JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!
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